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What are some of the best marketing ideas you've seen by small businesses?

What are some of your favourite small business marketing ideas to date? Are there any that have stuck with you?

Top voted answer
Jill Brennan

Jill Brennan, Founder at Harbren Marketing

Dollar Shave Club video focusing on the customer and less on the product and doing it with humour.  It's been watched over 25 million times on YouTube.

AirBnB were a struggling start up before they realised they needed to move to where their customers were on the other side of the country and get to know them - what they liked and disliked and why they used their service.  This became the seed material for how they marketed and the key information on their platform.

Spanx - after the founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely, got her product into Neiman Marcus, she went into the stores and talked to shoppers to make sure they knew about them.  She even moved a display stand to position it near the cash register.  This was important because she created a new product that people didn't know they needed until the product was explained to them.  She created a loyal fanbase that then helped her spread the word.

Trinny London - Trinny Woodall, the founder, does videos several times per week on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.  Sometimes its about her make up range but most of the time, she focuses on helpful information for women. What is clever is that she shares, is vulnerable and has genuine empathy for her audience. She has built a very loyal following this way (around 850,000 followers).  As many of her videos are filmed while she's on the go (Ubers, back of a motorbike, black cabs, her own car), she's recently teamed up Black Cabs in London to create a "Trinny Taxi".  Its been painted her brand colours and set up as a studio where she does interviews with other people in the personal care industry.  It's clever because she's increasing awareness of her brand (a mobile billboard that stands out with the distinctive Trinny yellow), she's creating content for sharing on social channels and its different, a key point in a very competitive market.

Paige Arnof-Fenn

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO at Mavens & Moguls

Top 10% Marketing

 Social media and technology are 24/7 so it is easy to get sucked into it but you do not have to let it run your life!  My advice is to pick a few things you enjoy doing and do them really well.  You cannot be everywhere all the time so choose high impact activities that work for you and play to your strengths.  For example, Thought Leadership is a great way to build your brand, increase your visibility more broadly, raise your profile and attract more clients/customers.  Activities like  speaking at a conference, writing articles, building your following on social media all contribute increasing your awareness with potential customers and building your credibility with a larger community.  Instead of trying to start your own blog or newsletter, try contributing regularly to existing well trafficked blogs in your industry or newsletters of likeminded organizations reaching the same target audience as you.  Make sure you put your URL or contact info on it so they can find you and follow up.  When your articles or talks become available online, make sure to send them out via social media to all your friends, followers and contacts.  Don’t let social media drive you crazy, you do not need to be everywhere, it does not matter which platform you choose just pick one or 2 that are authentic to you.  It should look and sound like you and the brand you have built.  Whether yours is polished or more informal, chatty or academic, humorous or snarky, it is a way for your personality to come through.  Everyone is not going to like you or hire you but for the ones who would be a great fit for you make sure they feel and keep a connection and give them a reason to remember you so that when they need your help they think of you first.  Start small and build as you go.  For me I started speaking at local events and then submitted proposals to speak at industry conferences and trade shows nationally and eventually global events too.  Same advice goes for writing start with small publications then move up the food chain to reach bigger audiences.   Key people need to be on LinkedIn so that they can be found too.  It adds credibly and transparency when you know the people you are meeting or working with know people in common.  LinkedIn has become more than an online resume or rolodex, it is the foundation for building relationships in the digital economy.  You do not need to blog or be on all social media platforms but make sure you are active on the ones where you are.  If your customers do not use Facebook, Twitter or  Instagram to find you then you do not need to make them a priority.  For many professional service businesses like mine, LinkedIn matters the most.  

This does not require big budgets but it does take time.  It is a smart investment to get this right.  Authenticity is the key, it has to be and feel real for it to work I think.  This has helped me grow my business.

Aishah Mustapha

Aishah Mustapha, Content Marketer at

Top 10% Graphic Design

I like what the Thank You brand has done, though they are more non-profit business. They’ve expanded their products from just “Thank You” water bottles to body care and baby stuff today.
When they first started a few years ago, they were trying to get their bottled water stocked in supermarkets. Their marketing was mainly done on social media especially using videos, which garnered a lot of momentum simply because it was refreshing, honest and different. I still remember that video where the founder talked about their mission and their impact. It got me on board to buying the Thank You water bottles.
I think when we talk about marketing, sometimes we forget that it is as simple as telling your story honestly and well enough to connect with people who feel the same way you do. The best marketing can start from, merely, your business idea and mission.

Sonja Ceri

Sonja Ceri, CMO at

If a small business can engage their audience I think this is the best type of marketing. If they can create a community around their brand their customers are more likely to remember them and use their products or services in the future. Some of those ideas I've seen include:

  • Successful Facebook Groups - if done well and have a good moderator.
  • Regular newsletters that provide useful information that people want to hear about. Don't just share stuff for the sake of it. 
  • An engaging social media presence that provides valuable information to its audience.
  • Social media campaigns where the audience can take part. 

There are loads more ways to do this but the main thing is that the marketing campaign is providing something to its audience - its not just about the brand. 

Theodora Nikolaou

Theodora Nikolaou at Dora Nikolaou

It really depends on:
- who the business is targetting
- what budget they have
- the business and industry
- the goals and direction of the business
- the messaging and brand positioning of the business... and the list goes on. 

I would ensure that the business is not relying only on social media. They should look at offline and online channels. There needs be a combination of channels that the target audience use.